A) Hunting – illegal hunting and black market trading in wildlife parts; penned hunting; remote controlled hunting, spring bear hunt (see Zoo Check Canada)

Animals in the Wild

C)October 21, 2011


Exotic Animals In Canada:


The recent suicide of a private exotic animal owner which included lions, tigers, bears, and wolves and their intentional release and escape in Ohio, USA has caused great concern amongst American and Canadian animal activists. The Sheriff had to order the shooting of the escaped animals by his officers as the protection of the community took precedence over the welfare of the animals. Ohio’s lax laws brought about this tragedy. Ohio is quickly trying to remedy the issue of private owners of exotic wild animals and the keeping of these animals without interference from authorities.


Can this situation occur in Canada?


The problem starts with unqualified persons keeping dangerous animals.


Canada’s basic problem - who has the authority over exotic animals?


The problem stems from Canada’s different levels of government and the inability of the various levels of governments to agree as to a solution.


The Canadian Constitution Act, 1867 Section 92(13) provides a dilemma. Because animals are considered property, the Provinces are given the power over animals.


The Canadian Federal government still deals with animals under the Criminal Code of Canada which brings about sanctions upon those persons willfully killing or harming animals which includes exotic animals. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency sets the rules of the importing and exporting animals in general. Their Automatic Import Reference System under the Canadian Food Inspection System sets out the import/export of specific-named animals and their quarantine period.


In addition, Canada adheres to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which regulates international trade through international co-operation for the survival of certain species. Lions, tigers, and bears are but a few of the animals on the protected list. Canada adheres to the list. Environment Canada is the lead agency responsible for managing of CITES in Canada. The Canadian Wildlife Service, a branch of Environment Canada administers CITES. The Canadian Border Service Agency also gets involved. The USA has even more stringent rules than CITES about the importing and exporting animals across the border. All these services must be vigilant when certain animals are imported or exported in and out of Canada.


The Province of Ontario has legislation in place that deals with animals in general – Animals for Research Act, Dead Animals Disposal Act, Dog Owner’s Liability Act, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, Food safety and Quality Act, Livestock Community Sales Act, Livestock and Livestock Products Act, Livestock Medicines Act, and the new Provincial Animal Welfare Act (formerly the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act).


The Province of Ontario is now looking at specific legislation to deal with the problem of exotic animals. The Ontario government is trying to pass a private member’s bill (MPP Dave Levac) – Bill 125 Exotic Wildlife in Captivity Act, 2010 (An Act to Amend the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act 1997). At present Bill 125 has only received 1st Reading in the Ontario Legislature. The Bill is caught up with many exceptions. One exception is allowing the public to keep an exotic animal for the purpose of rehabilitation.


At the municipal level of government various by-laws have been passed by municipal governments to control exotic animals. The problem is that there is no standard by-law amongst the various cities as to how to define “exotic animal” and how to deal with the many exceptions such as universities, labs, traveling circuses, animal school related displays etc. At one point in time there was a jurisdictional issue with the municipal by-laws as opposed to provincial legislation. The Ontario Municipal Act 2003 s. 11(3)(9) remedied this situation as it allows municipalities to pass animal and thereby exotic animal  by-laws.


Self regulation of exotic animals in Canada is conducted by CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums). It is a non-profit organization administered mainly by members of the major zoos in Canada. Most major zoos and aquariums in Canada are members. CAZA sets the standards, the controls, and monitors these facilities. The problem is that it is voluntary organization. Many private zoos and individuals fall outside this organization and are not members. Zoocheck Canada, an independent body and a non-profit organization also monitors these various zoos. The “voice of the Canadian pet industry”, PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) also sets out in its mandate under a policy called the Exotic Pet Policy. PIJAC indicates that it adheres to CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species). It is worthwhile to compare the two lists. There are discrepancies and the issue of “captive bred” animals causes problems with animal activists.


In conclusion, Canada needs standardized legislation for exotic animals and animals in general at the provincial and territorial level and the municipal level. For example, many municipalities are presently debating the closing of pet stores within their jurisdiction. This appears to be very non-productive and causes a patchwork quilt of remedies as various municipal Councils debate the various issues. Canada needs a central policy. It may be worthwhile for the provinces (Council of the Federation) and municipalities (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) as it is under their jurisdiction to get together and come up with a standardized answer.